The timing of this visit was quite challenging due to the weather conditions, but fortunately, there seemed to be a potential opportunity on Thursday, with fingers crossed. It had been prearranged with Hal that we would tour the full-size planes and potentially have David experience flying in one to observe the area that would be submerged by the Thames water reservoir. As Andy Wolfenden awaited David’s arrival at the Main gate on the A338, Hal conducted a test flight to ensure that cloud base levels were suitable, while James Penman set up his buddy box. Other members bravely braved the weather, with Ian Titchell serving as a backup in case James couldn’t get away from his work duties.
David arrived at 15:00 and was taken to the full-size planes. We were hoping that Hal would approve the flight and that David would be willing to fly, though he was unaware of this plan until we exited our vehicles. This was intentional to prevent David from dwelling on it prior to the visit. After a bit of persuasion, David boarded Hal’s fixed-wing plane, displaying a slightly nervous expression, and took off.
When viewed on a map, it’s difficult to grasp the vastness of the reservoir. However, from the vantage point of Hal’s plane, looking down at the land that will be submerged and irreversibly altered by the water, the true scale of the area is striking. We hope this experience will leave a lasting impression on David and motivate him to ask pertinent questions in Parliament.
Transitioning from flying in a real plane to operating a model, David discovered the challenges. He walked from V1 Flight to our location, with the weather still cooperating. Using a buddy box, James provided David with the opportunity to pilot one of the club’s training planes. After a successful landing, David engaged in discussions with the clubs members, focusing on our concerns about the irreversible threat to the land.
After the visit, David said that he greatly enjoyed his visit and added that he has consistently advocated for alternative measures to be considered to the proposed reservoir and has regularly raised the concerns of his constituents about it in Parliament, including with the Prime Minister at PMQs and in letters to the Water Minister. He has also responded to the various consultations on behalf of his constituents and written to Thames Water on several occasions. Just in the past month, he has met with Thames Water to discuss the plans and raise the concerns of constituents with them directly, written to the Environment Secretary to share these concerns, and written to the Environment Agency and Ofwat to ask them to meet with GARD to discuss the plans in more detail, which the Environment Agency have agreed to do as a result.
We extend our gratitude David and to all our members who joined us on that day.